And just like that, another fantastic round of HHSinnovates has wrapped up.  It was only six months ago that we were celebrating the six finalists from round five.  In the months since the last round of HHSinnovates, we have seen some amazing progress in the adoption of innovation and experimentation at the Department.

At the last HHSinnovates awards, Secretary Sebelius announced the launch of HHSconnects, an internal collaboration tool that allows employees to connect with one another and share information and ideas.  Today, there are more than 10,000 Department employees using HHSconnects to collaborate, find resources and solve problems.

Since the last round of HHSinnovates, the HHSentrepreneurs Program has been in full swing; a program that pairs up innovative employees with experts outside government to tackle some of the Department’s toughest challenges.  The progress that has been made on the projects to date has been amazing.  I have seen firsthand what happens when you bring people in from the outside who are unencumbered by the bureaucracy – they teach the internal people that challenges to the status quo are ok and that they are free to experiment.  A great example of this was when External Entrepreneur for the Clinical Quality Measures Project, Mindy Hangsleben, held a Kiazen Event.  A Kiazen Event is something very unique to Lean methodology and participants found that there was some major inefficiency in how we develop quality measures. You can read all about Mindy’s experience and the experience of all the External Entrepreneurs on the HHSentrepreneurs blog.  We are now accepting applications for internal projects for round two of HHSentrepreneurs until April 1st, which can be submitted here.

While we have made some major advancement in providing pathways for people to experiment and innovate, we have seen that there is still a need for more.  Today, Secretary Sebelius announced the launch of HHSignites.  HHSignites is a new internal competitive seed-funding opportunity that gives HHS employees the opportunity to test new and unconventional ideas.   It is a way for HHS employees to act on that great idea that they have been holding on to for months, or maybe even years. HHSignites is where an employee can apply for resources by proposing their idea.  More information on HHSignite is coming, so stay tuned.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate the six finalists for round six of HHSinnovates.  Once again, I have seen some amazing talent and creativity in the Department.  For those who believe that government is old and stale, I challenge you to look at these six projects and the other 30 finalists in the HHSinnovates gallery, all of which rely on ingenuity, resourcefulness and the willingness to experiment.

I would like to congratulate the three project teams from the Administration for Community Living and National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Connecting to Combat Alzheimer’s project, Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA)Anti-Counterfeit Device project, and the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and HBO’s Weight of the Nation Campaign project for being selected as the Secretary’s picks.  I would also like to offer my congratulations to the three other project teams from, the FDA-iRISK project, Indian Health Services’ Portal System: Linking Healthcare Clinics project and the NIH Body Weight Simulator project for being honorable mentions. Lastly, a special thank you to everyone who voted for the People’s Choice Award; this round, the award went to the Connecting to Combat Alzheimer’s Project.

In six short months we have made some great progress in the adoption of new methodology and the willingness to experiment in the Department but we are nowhere near finished.  Innovation and experimentation are truly going viral at HHS and I can’t wait to look back in six more months to see more ideas, efficiencies and solutions that will ultimately improve healthcare.

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